South Carolina’s all-time record in the series against rival Clemson doesn’t exactly sparkle. But it would be hard to tell that based on the past three seasons, when the Gamecocks have emerged victorious by outscoring the Tigers 97-37.
For USC’s seniors, not much would be sweeter than finding a way to win a fourth straight game against the Tigers, something the Gamecocks have done only once before, from 1951-54. .
“We’ve talked about it a little bit. It’s one of our goals for the season – beat Clemson,” USC senior defensive end Devin Taylor said. “To do that four years straight would be a good accomplishment for us.”
Considering that Clemson had won 10 of the previous 12 meetings heading into the 2009 game, including two streaks of four in a row (1997-2000 and 2002-05), that accomplishment would be especially noteworthy for the Gamecocks.
USC’s current upper-hand has changed the momentum in a rivalry that Clemson has dominated since the two schools first played back in 1896. The Tigers hold an overall 65-40-4 advantage and have won three or more consecutive games 11 times, which included a record seven-straight from 1934-40. USC has managed that same benchmark five times.
That’s a big reason the No. 13 Gamecocks (9-2) would like nothing more than to continue this winning streak over the No. 12 Tigers (10-1), especially with both teams having big seasons.
Although neither team made its conference championship game, both are attempting to raise their bowl profiles. And South Carolina could get to the 10-win mark for the third time in school history and second year in a row.
“We’ve still got a lot of goals out there with 10 wins. We definitely want to get double-digits wins this year,” senior linebacker Shaq Wilson said. “Four years in a row is something we can build on here at Carolina with our tradition.”
A win for the Gamecocks also would extend the bragging rights for their fans to 1,460 days, which equates to an eternity in a small state like this one, where people on both sides of the rivalry live and work in close quarters.
For so long, Clemson fans held those rights, but the USC players have doubled down on their efforts to become more competitive. Wilson credits the team for becoming closer as a family unit and developing a mindset of playing with abandon.
“It’s just all-out, go for it and play with full intensity. Just love what you’re doing,” he said. “We just have a lot of fun. It started changing when we started having a lot of fun.”
In this case, winning equals fun for the Gamecocks, and they don’t want to see it end.
The underclassmen also want to do their part to carry the streak forward. Sophomore defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, whose father Buddy played for USC from 1984-87, is quite familiar with the intensity of the series. He calls the desire to win something that’s ingrained deep inside of him.
“It’s very, very important in the rivalry to get this one done,” Quarles said.
Sophomore wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who has experienced the rivalry on the football field with one win and the basketball court with two wins, sees the bigger picture of getting that fourth straight win.
“We would have a little bit of bragging rights and make history again at the school,” Ellington said.
South Carolina also has a non-conference winning streak of 15 games, a streak that dates to the 2008 Clemson loss. A victory would make Steve Spurrier the winningest coach in USC history as well.
“It’s just exciting. We’ve got stuff on the line. We just want to make the most of it,” Wilson said.
But nothing matters more to the seniors than one final walk off the field with a victory over the Tigers.
“This is a very important game, one I want to really win,” Taylor said.